Ghosts of War is available to stream and buy from 17th July 2020 on all major platforms.
Horror films exploring the interface between war, trauma, violence, and the supernatural are nothing new, from the sublime The Devil’s Backbone (2001) through to the stark and uncompromising Jacobs Ladder (1990). However, in recent years horror has struggled to reflect war in a manner befitting the complexity of human violence and the effect on the individual. Instead, horror has opted to bring us war-based zombie flicks and gore-filled stories lacking vision, bite, and creativity. Therefore, Ghosts of War starts with an exciting premise as writer/director Eric Bress explores the human horror of war within a classic haunted house tale.
Haunted by a series of strange dreams, a young G.I. Chris (Brenton Thwaites) leads his small troop of soldiers through occupied France. The year is 1944, and the Second World War is nearing its end, his troop of beleaguered fighters weary of the bloodshed and trauma. The bravado of Butchie (Ritchson), calming influence of Eugene (Astin), the trophy mentality of Tappert (Gallner) and the campfire stories of Kirk (Rossi) demonstrate the differing mental toll on each man.
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As Chris and his men near their next checkpoint, a grand Chateau once owned by a wealthy French family, a respite from the bloodshed and violence finally comes into view. However, as they arrive, the troop of soldiers they are due to replace is jittery and eager to leave. Here the grand surroundings of the Chateau are covered with dust as the building creaks and moans a song of sadness. However, despite the fear of the soldiers before them, Chris and his men quickly settle into the comfort of their surroundings – the horror of the house and its recent history quiet and undisturbed until the sun disappears over the horizon.
There is much to admire in the first half of Bress’ film; a foreboding sense of dread surrounds us as the house and its recent past unfurls in some genuinely stunning supernatural horror. A well-crafted sense of terror threads through each scene as the soldiers realise they are not alone as the ghost of their pasts slowly wakes. However, this terror is also matched by a feeling that each soldier neither fits nor reflects the time they inhabit. Here their dialogue jars with the 1940s location, leaving the viewer somewhat confused as we march toward the film’s final twist.
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However, the final twist is, unfortunately, a step too far as the terror of the first two acts is replaced by something far more generic in the finale. As a horror movie, Ghosts of War cleverly embraces the tried and tested jump scares of the classic haunted house picture, but these are ejected as it attempts a clever conclusion. Ultimately this leaves the viewer confused as Bress throws the film’s strengths under a bus. However, in a world where innovation in horror can be lacking, Ghosts of War does deserve praise for trying to delve deeper into the psychological effects of war even if the result is clumsy.
Director: Eric Bress
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Kyle Gallner, Skylar Astin, Alan Ritchson, Billy Zane